A few years ago, I received a phone call from a reader who wanted to publish a letter complaining about his neighbor's yard.
The caller said the yard, after being neglected for months, was a dump. It was the neighborhood eyesore, he complained, cluttered with lumber and other building materials.
I politely told the caller that it sounded like a private dispute better solved between two adults, and not a matter aired publicly in the pages of the newspaper.
The caller said the situation had gone beyond a private concern -- he went door to door, asking his neighbors to sign a petition against the homeowner. He had hoped his efforts would lead to fines or some other legal action.
As it turned out, the caller failed to visit one home: the neighbor with the unsightly yard.
I learned that the neighbor's wife had become ill, and died. The hefty medical bills from her illness forced the neighbor back to work, leaving the home improvement project he and his wife had planned to finish together left undone.
It saddened me to think that in a different era or circumstance, that same neighbor might have rallied the other neighbors, not to sign a petition of complaint, but to assemble a work force to help their neighbor finish the project and clean the yard.
Since then I have been reminded that such times of compassion and caring are not all lost, and that sometimes we lose sight of the good things happening around us and the blessings that belong to us.
Our tendency to focus on the trivial details of life becomes most evident when we, as a community, lose one of our children.
Seventeen-year-old Kayla Floyd was killed in a highway accident Tuesday. As a parent, looking at her sweet, vibrant face and shining, alive eyes in a photograph, it is nearly impossible not to think about our own precious sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.
It also reminds us of what is truly important. Suddenly all the bickering and petty arguments are brought into perspective.
In times like this, we remember life's frailty -- our own mortality -- and we feel the urge to be more compassionate, quicker to forgive, slower to judge and more humbled by how little we are in control.
And that's where it starts -- when we can push aside the static of the world and cultivate a desire to help and forgive, not just in times of tragedy, but in our everyday lives and relationships.
On Tuesday, after Kayla was injured, off-duty Mesa firefighter Larry Campbell was one of the first people on the scene. Larry first checked on Kayla's friend, Kevin, but quickly learned that there was a second, more seriously injured victim. Larry said his heart dropped when he saw Kayla lying face down on the road -- he had lost his own 10-year-old daughter a few years earlier.
Several good citizens were on hand trying to save Kayla's life: Larry, along with his teenage son, were joined by Chandler police officer, Sgt. Kenny Thatcher and other off-duty police officers, as well as a nurse from Phoenix Children's Hospital.
And while at first glance, their efforts appear unfruitful, their very act of trying to save Kayla's life touched the hearts and forever changed the lives of the family and friends who were not there during the her final conscious moments. I am grateful for the many residents in Payson who quietly serve by taking meals to the sick, helping a neighbor clean their yard, driving someone to an appointment, or just overlooking faults in others.
Thank you for caring.
See Story: Payson girl's death brings life to others